Supreme Court: The Bench comprising of A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, JJ. stayed the arrest of accused clergymen, while deferring the hearing of the special leave petition filed by Father Sony Varghese, Father of Malankara Church, who is one of the accused in the latest infamous Church sex scandal in Kerala.

The matter arises from the decision of the Kerala High Court which refused to grant anticipatory bail to the accused in a criminal case registered against them for sexually exploiting the survivor. The accused were booked under Sections 376, 354, 354A, 506(1) of IPC. The applicants before the High Court were clergymen of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. The survivor was a married woman who made allegations of gross sexual impropriety against the applicants. It was alleged that Accused 1 sexually abused her since 1999 on the false pretext of marrying her, which continued even after marriage of the accused as well as the survivor. Further, allegations against Accused 2, Vicar of a nearby Church, were that he too sexually exploited the survivor on more than one occasion. The survivor had confessed about her relationship with Accused 1 before the Church and Accused 2 threatened her to oblige with sexual favours or he will tell everything to her husband. It was alleged that she was made comply with the exploitative sexual demands by the accused under threat.

The accused had filed an application under Section 438 CrPC before the High Court which was refused holding that considering the gravity of allegations and possibility of the accused influencing the witness and investigation, it was not a fit case to grant anticipatory bail. The High Court went on to observe that the accused acted like predators.

The Hon’ble Bench of the Supreme Court has directed the matter to be listed on 19-7-2018. [Sony Varghese v. State of Kerala, SLP (Crl.) No. 5686 of 2018, dated 17-07-2018]

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